Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell

What’s Coming in 2020. Guaranteed.

Posted from Culver City, California at 7:46 pm, February 10th, 2020

Now in its twelfth inglorious year, here’s my annual list of predictions for the new year. For anyone who has followed along in the past, my track record is… not great… so you may want to get a second opinion before heading to Vegas or calling your stock broker based on anything written here.

  1. Here are the obligatory political predictions for the upcoming election season. Important caveat: I’m terrible at predictions, and I also think there is enough uncertainty in the economy, world events, and the candidates themselves to swing the election wildly in either direction:
    • Either Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg will be the Democratic nominee. I think the early success of Bernie Sanders is going to make Democrats desperate to find a more centrist candidate who has a better chance of beating Trump, which gives an advantage to Biden and Buttigieg. I suspect that South Carolina will probably be a turning point – if Buttigieg wins there that will send a signal and he should clean up on Super Tuesday, but if Biden can win big in South Carolina then that will position him well to earn the most delegates in the following week’s primaries.
    • Democrats will end up gaining 3-4 seats in the Senate. It’s a bad map for Republicans – they are defending 23 seats vs just 12 for Democrats, so they are on defense in some blue-ish states. I suspect Democrats will flip Arizona, Colorado and Maine, but lose Alabama, which would result in a 50-50 split Senate.
    • Democrats will maintain control of the House but lose a few seats overall. The Democrats had a 235-199 advantage after the last election, so it would take a pretty big win for the Republicans to take back power. However, Democrats who won in Trump districts are going to have a harder time earning re-election now that attention has been focused for months on impeachment after they based their election campaigns on everyday issues like health care.
    • Trump will lose in the general election. I don’t like putting that into writing because I don’t feel like it’s going to happen, particularly if someone like Bernie is the Democratic nominee, but I’m hoping the country is better than the reality show it has been for the past four years. Feelings aside, I have trouble believing that the good economic numbers that have been Trump’s main argument with swing voters will continue to hold up through the end of the year, or that a global crisis like the coronavirus won’t expose the lack of competence in the current administration, much like Katrina revealed problems in the second Bush administration.
  2. Virgin Galactic will launch its first paying space tourists, and Richard Branson will finally take a ride on his new space plane. Space is awesome, and having a reliable way of putting rich tourists beyond the atmosphere is an excellent first step towards a world where I get to someday get to see the Earth from orbit.
  3. Coming off of a seventh-place finish in the 2019 World Championships, the US men’s basketball team will go undefeated in the Olympics, winning each game by no less than ten points. The world is catching up to America in basketball, but I think Steph Curry, rested after a year in which Golden State misses the playoffs, and a motivated James Harden will be awfully tough to stop.
  4. Tesla will announce major updates to its Model S and Model X vehicles; these changes will go far beyond minor cosmetic updates or slight range boosts. All-but-verified rumors say that Tesla will be announcing improved battery technology later this year. Combined with new manufacturing processes that Tesla has developed for its other models, the company will have the opportunity to re-imagine its flagship vehicles, differentiating them from the lower-end Model 3 and Model Y, and re-invigorating sales.
  5. Lebron James will win his fifth NBA MVP award and his fourth NBA championship. Being from Cleveland I’m biased, but he took a mediocre Cavs team to the championship numerous times, and is now doing wonders with the Lakers. People love having heroes, so I think the story of the 35 year old guy leading a storied franchise to the league’s best record is going to earn him another MVP trophy, to be followed shortly thereafter with another NBA championship.
  6. Despite some positive news from the FAA, Boeing’s 737 MAX plane, grounded since March 2019, will not fly again in the US until the July-September timeframe. As an engineer, seeing some of the reports that have come out during the investigation into the plane’s failings have been demoralizing – removing redundancy in critical sensor systems to cut costs, management decisions that forced engineers to come up with complex solutions when simpler options should have been possible, etc, etc. Hopefully Boeing emerges from this snafu with a renewed focus on innovation and quality, but having seen behind the curtains I’m not optimistic that will be the case.
  7. The deployment of faster 5G wireless will be slow and problematic through 2020, with deployments mostly limited to high-density areas in some cities; specifically, I’ll predict that Verizon will not have made usable 5G available at my house by the end of the year. 5G requires more towers than previous technologies, and based on my experience in Los Angeles, wireless carriers are having trouble deploying enough towers to create meaningful coverage areas.
  8. Wonder Woman 1984 will be the top-grossing comic book movie of the year, but will lag far behind the $412 million earned by its predecessor; I’ll predict something in the $275-325 million range. The original movie was fun but not particularly good, and Warner Brothers has a terrible record of making comic book movies.
  9. At least two of the following three things will happen: Drew Brees will return for one more year with the Saints but retire when the season ends, Tom Brady will return for one more year with the Patriots but retire when the season ends, or Andrew Luck will announce that he is ending his retirement and returning to the Colts. I think it is almost certain that both Brady and Brees come back for another year, but I also think both of them want to go out as stars and will retire while they are still among the league’s best quarterbacks. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck retired for health reasons, and the circumstances around his retirement (the Colts let him keep $16 million in salary that they could have recouped) make me wonder if he hasn’t expressed some desire to play again when he’s healthy.
  10. Mobile phones with folding screens will be the next big idea in tech that turns out to not have a market. Just like 3D televisions several years ago, folding cell phones (which “unfold” to give you a bigger screen) sound like a good idea, but they will be bigger, less capable, and more prone to breaking than normal phones, all while being significantly more expensive. While some people will purchase them, I strongly suspect that most people won’t want a device that is neither a good phone nor a good tablet, particularly when they could spend the same amount of money on two separate devices that individually do their jobs much, much better.
  11. SpaceX will launch astronauts to the space station by the end of summer, but Boeing will not launch astronauts in 2020. SpaceX successfully completed their in-flight abort test (click and go to the 20:05 mark for a cool video of the crew module escaping, followed by the main rocket going BOOM), and despite the slow pace of rocketry they should be on-track to launch humans soon. Boeing, meanwhile, had a troubled first test and needs to do additional work to prove that their capsule can fly safely.
  12. Apple will either purchase an existing studio, partner with another streaming service, or in some other way significantly beef up the content library for its Apple TV service, since rumors state there seems to be limited interest in their current offerings. Currently Apple is reported to be spending $6 billion on developing original content, but it is lagging far behind the number of subscribers for other services. Disney purchased Marvel for $4 billion and also paid $4 billion for Lucasfilm – surely Apple would be willing to spend a similar amount to augment its own content offerings.

A bit late this year, but there they are. Given my recent track record of getting only 20-30% of them right, expect most of these to be embarrassingly wrong when the carnage is tallied next January. As always, the comments link is available for anyone who wants to join the madness and add their own thoughts on the coming year.

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